“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another”. – Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments
As you may know, today is #GivingTuesday.
For those who don’t know, today is a day is where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others (www.givingtuesday.ca). Naturally then, there will be lots of discussion and celebration today about giving and volunteering. Stories will be shared, and suggestions will be brought forward about how you can share commitments, rally for causes, and think about others.
But I would like to illustrate why I think that JustChange is unlike any story of giving that you will hear today.
I’ll start with the obvious: Our giving consists of no tax credits, no qualified donees, no grant-making priorities, no invested assets, no operation or administrative or overhead expenses. There’s no reporting requirements, outcomes measurements, or shared value. What we do is take money out of our own pockets, and give it to a person or group of people who have a really great idea that we want to see happen in our community.
We don’t use crowdfunding platforms, other than physically getting together to decide on a winner and put money into a jar. We don’t hold fundraisers or campaigns other than to meet up for drinks (what we have dubbed ‘JustDrinks’) and celebrate that winner with anyone who would like to come and meet them.
The whole structure is remarkably simple, but the reasons behind it’s simplicity is perhaps less obvious. In true blogging form, I will focus on three reasons that I find particularly important.
The first reason is for filling a funding gap for non-profits and social entrepreneurs. A few people have lovingly called it the ‘pat on the back’ gap. Others call it seed-funding or spark-funding. What we do is help get ideas off the ground, give them a vote of confidence and access to community resources, such as the Hub, CISED, media attention (if desired), our own networks and skills (also only if desired). These are ideas that do not receive funding from traditional financing or funding, often because of significant risk (lack of structure, personal guarantees, etc). But for us, the idea is sound and important for the community, whether it is prototyping new business models with a social mission (Cigbins, Bumbrellas, Bibz) or enabling innovation in non-profit organizations (Sisters Achieving Excellence, Sustainability Bike Tour, COMPASS), then we think it’s worth a shot.
This is important: lacking in Canada is an entrepreneurial spirit and disruptive will for innovation. As the ‘Baby Boomer retirement’ crisis hits the country in full force in this decade and continues into the 2030s, the need for entrepreneurship (to take over for retiring business owners) and innovation (to increase the productivity needed to sustain our country’s current income levels) will become increasingly apparent and alarming. Movements, like Startup Canada, have helped bring national attention to this issue, and have recently put a greater spotlight on social entrepreneurship. At the very local community level of JustChange Ottawa, we hope to foster a greater appetite for this kind of drive. We are doing what we can (and what our purses allow us) to help build this kind of positive and entrepreneurial spirit into the social, environmental, cultural, and development work of our community.
The second reason is for building roots and trust in our community. The lack of structure in JustChange provides us, the board members, with such a wonderful freedom to decide on what we want to see in our community, where our money goes, and how it will be used. There is an incredible sense of connection that results from being able to support community initiatives. Through JustChange, we are weaving into the social fabric of the city, and this remarkable effect both fine-tunes our ideas about what to support, and also builds a greater sense of trust between our applicants and us. We don’t use crowdfunding tools or seek out leveraging private or foundation dollars because for us at JustChange, it is less about the size of the Cheque, than it is actually handing it to the applicant.
So my third and final reason is also an announcement: for encouraging replication. Our model is simple, but effective. JustChange is less a structure than it is a way of engaging with a community, planting roots, and building a society through your own choices. Moreover, it is the grassroots connection with the community that makes the model so effective at supporting social entrepreneurial drive. If you know of ten like-minded individuals who would be amenable to something like this, then drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be delighted to have a chat.